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Election Guide #5: Today is the day. Let’s go!!!
You better vote.
Today is the day! Please pressure the people around you to vote. Here is an easy way to do so: The 1-Minute Mini Guide To The Worcester Election. Here it is in full again. Why not.
The 1-Minute Mini Guide to the Worcester Election
We have never been so close to achieving something so special in this often miserable little city. You can help make that happen by running an extra errand today. Voting in presidential elections is pretty pointless so if you feel that way, you’re not wrong. But voting in this one isn’t. These races could be decided by dozens of votes. It matters. If you want to learn more, there’s a lot to learn and you can start here. If you don’t want to learn more, that’s fine! This is the guide for you.
If you don’t know where to vote, use this page to find out. The polls are open until 8 p.m. It takes less time than a convenience store run. In and out and on with your day.
The following picks are the COOL ZONE and the COOL ZONE is a silly name for a very serious coalition of smart people who care about the city and want to do something to make it better for everyone. They care about your rent going up, for instance, and they have a real shot at taking power from the people who don’t.
If you vote the following way, you are officially in the COOL ZONE. You can just keep this page open on your phone in the voting booth and work off the list. That’s fine. No one is going to yell at you.
Mayor: Khrystian King
At Large (pick six): King, Thu Nguyen, Maydee Morales, Domenica Perrone, Johanna Hampton-Dance, Guillermo Creamer
District 1: Jenny Pacillo
District 2: Rob Bilotta
District 3: Feanna Jattan-Singh
District 4: Katia Norford
District 5: Etel Haxhiaj
SC At Large: Tracy O’Connell Novick, Sue Mailman
SC District C: Jermoh Kamara
SC District E: Nelly Medina
Pass it along! There’s a version of it on the Worcester Sucks Instagram as well.
This is the fifth edition of a sprint of an election guide. Three posts in three days. Sheesh! Here are the others:
In today’s post, we have a few different looks at how to process the outcome tonight, whatever it may be.
First, Greg Opperman hits us with a statistical analysis of what we should expect. And then I share a few thoughts on that. To close us out, Jordan Berg Powers has a short and thoughtful essay on the larger goals and achievements of the progressive movement here in Worcester we all know and love. The COOL ZONE, if you will. Good stuff!
The moral of the story is we have an opportunity today to do something huge and unprecedented. Flipping the City Council in the progressive direction is a real possibility. The School Committee is in danger. A Jan. 6 person (Kathi Roy) and a woman who shielded a credibly accused pedophile (Maureen Binienda) are well positioned for new power over the schools. Every vote counts.
We need to leave it all on the field today. We need to be loud and we need to leave no stone unturned. Again: it is not enough to vote, you need to lean on your people to vote as well.
And don’t forget: Tonight, the Worcestery Council Theatre 3,000 boys are holding a live event! At The Sundown (the old Dive Bar, 34 Green Street), starting at 7 p.m. It’s free and open to the public. Come down and join in on the fun! Woohoo!
The absolute SQUAD right here! Let’s go!
Worcester’s Past is Prologue
The writing’s mostly on the wall for the upcoming city council at large election. Or is it? I ran a computer simulation to find out.
By Greg Opperman (@gopperman)
Worcester’s biennial city council election is right around the corner, and the stakes feel higher than ever. With an influx of new people and new organizing, several progressives are attempting to wrestle power away from Worcester’s established power brokers. Reactionary forces, including a Chamber of Commerce-led super PAC, are working to maintain the status quo.
If you’re like me, you believe every election is pregnant with possibilities. Every year could be the year that your people rise up and take power. You walk into a polling station, cast a vote and pray for your desired outcome. You wonder if maybe this time enough people like you will show up—or enough people not like you will stay home—to make a difference.
In state and national elections, you get a firehose of information every day: polls and pundits endlessly discussing who’s up, who’s down and who’s going to go the distance. Even though Worcester is the second largest city in New England, we have a relative drought of media coverage. Information about the players that will make huge decisions about the future is terminally lacking.
I’ve been living and voting in Worcester for almost 20 years now, and every election is a cipher.
Elections for district seats are pretty simple. In a one-on-one race, you can usually intuit the winner (hint: it’s usually the incumbent). Worcester’s at-large council race is a little different: With no polling or predictive metrics, we have to rely on vibes. Mostly, the same half-dozen faces end up on top. Sometimes you get a surprise, like progressive Thu Nguyen’s win in 2021. This year, 11 candidates are fighting for 6 at-large council seats, with 3 first-time challengers.
I’ve been pondering this cipher for years. This time, I decided to do something about it. Mike Benedetti, friend of the newsletter (editor’s note: I think? Maybe?), worked with me to create a simulation to predict what seats are actually up for grabs, and which ones are likely to go to the incumbents. FiveThirtyEight for 508, if you will. We looked at 40 years of election data compiled by Nicole Apostola to see if we could find any trends. Surprisingly, Worcester voting patterns have been incredibly consistent, especially over the last decade. Voter turnout remains largely the same year to year, and support for individual candidates barely changes. For example, the same 8,000 to 9,000 people have been voting for Joe Petty for a decade, plus or minus a few hundred. In Worcester, past elections are incredibly reliable predictors of future ones.
I used this data to create a statistical model that I could feed into a computer simulation. For each candidate running this year, I calculated the percentage of voters that preferred that candidate in past elections. Next, I calculated standard deviation, which is just a fancy term for measuring how much random change in popularity that a candidate is likely to experience year to year. For first-time candidates (Hampton-Dance, Morales, Perrone), I used data from past first-time candidates to guess the minimum and maximum possible range for a newcomer. From there, I could simulate an election by randomly calculating what percentage of voter share each candidate was likely to get. Then, I ran that simulation a million times to figure out each candidate’s likelihood of winning one of the six seats.
Out of a million simulated elections, here’s the percentage of elections each of the candidates won:
Looking at the data, one might assume the fix is in—and to a certain extent, it is. Love them or hate them, Joe Petty and Kate Toomey aren’t going anywhere. King, Bergman, Nguyen and Colorio will most likely sail to victory. It’s likely that our at-large council will look the same as it has for the last two years.
However, these elections can be incredibly tight. In 2021, Donna Colorio (7,270 votes), Moe Bergman (7,336) and Thu Nguyen (7,364) were separated by fewer than 100 votes. As a long-time incumbent, Bergman’s support has been consistent, but any of those three candidates could be in danger if their popularity erodes.
The challengers this year have all run incredibly active campaigns. If one or more of them can put up around 7,300 votes, then it's anyone’s game for a seat on the council. For our challengers, 12% might not seem like great odds to win, but as any Dungeons & Dragons player knows, critical hits can happen when you most need them and least expect them.
Greg Opperman is a software engineer and former newsroom developer at the Boston Globe. Follow him on Twitter @gopperman.
The Critical Hit
Bill again! Really interesting work by Greg! There’s a wrinkle to his analysis that got me thinking and I’m glad he closed on that note about a critical hit. Because as much as the data shows a depressingly easy route for incumbents, it can’t account for the context of Nguyen’s incumbency. Thu did remarkably well as a first time candidate last election, and did so via a strategy that was drastically different than that of the standard old guard councilor. This time, Nguyen is not the only one running that playbook! Maydee Morales and Domenica Perrone especially are running the same strategy, appealing to the same constituency. Nguyen came out of nowhere last election, and both Perrone and Morales stand to do the same. While it wouldn’t be good statistics to run three Nguyens in Greg’s model, that’s what we’re looking at. Nguyen’s 86 percent chance of victory is transferable in a way. Two other people are making the exact same play. While Bergman and Colorio likely share voters, it’s hard to imagine there’s a ton of overlap with Nguyen voters. Two more Nguyens in this model and it’s not impossible to see them taking the fourth, fifth and sixth slots. To accept that incumbency drastically increases the odds of a candidate’s win suggests that Thu will do better this time than last time, and there are two people playing the hand that got Nguyen into fourth last time, in the exact same position of first time challenger.
It’s all tea leaves of course, but the way I read it this model suggests Bergman and Colorio are actually especially vulnerable this year, and these first time progressive challengers are campaigning on a new model Nguyen proved to be successful. Colorio and Bergman on the other hand have done nothing different. They are expected, as Greg explained, to get the same amount of votes as they’ve gotten.
If Nguyen does a little better, and Morales and Domenica do as well as Nguyen did in the last election, there’s a real chance of bumping off two cranks and replacing them with two progressives. The 8-3 dynamic becomes 6-5, before any of the district races are considered. Encouraging! Hard not to get hopes up.
And then, when you consider the margins, it becomes clear how important it is to motivate just a few people you know to vote! These bottom three slots last year were decided by dozens of votes. Thu got about 20 more votes than Bergman, and Bergman got about 60 more votes than Colorio.
Several readers of this newsletter motivating several of their non-voting friends to show up and vote for Thu, Domenica and Maydee could legitimately be the critical hit that allows the progressive coalition to control the City Council.
In yesterday’s post, I put together a 1 Minute Mini Guide To The Worcester Election, geared toward people who don’t pay attention. It has everything a non-voting friend needs to know to vote today and vote well. Couldn’t hurt to text it to a few people 🙂
We’ve already won
By Jordan Berg Powers (@BlackJew)
Regardless of the outcome of this election, the progressive movement in Worcester has already won.
Imitation isn’t just the sincerest form of flattery—in politics, it is what happens when people in power know they are losing.
Progress Worcester wasn’t created in opposition to Worcester Working Families IEPAC, but as its weird doppelgänger. The Worcester Guardian is pretending to provide the kind of journalism and commentary that Worcester Sucks and I Love It and Worcestery Council Theatre 3000 actually do.
The Worcester Chamber of Commerce and the people who consider themselves the power brokers had to sink $50,000 of their own money into copying Worcester Working Families with Progress Worcester and another $50,000 copying Worcester Sucks with the Guardian. Pocket change for the folks with the money, of course, but still.
If they thought direct opposition would work, the Chamber and the reactionary majority would draw clear distinctions. Instead, they are muddying the water—co-opting what we have built and pretending to represent the things they oppose.
They pretend to support affordable housing while actively opposing it. They claim to be pro-choice while declining to use their power to protect reproductive freedom in Worcester. They claim to believe in climate change while working against green initiatives. They claim to be for development then come to Zoning Board meetings with NIMBY talking points.
We are dictating the terms of the conversation, and they’re reacting to us. We set the agenda, and they pretend to support our ideas. They do not publicly advocate their own ideas, because their ideas are unpopular. Despite tax cuts to developers and big corporations being their only economic development plans, the Chamber of Commerce isn’t trying to sell that position.
Moe Bergman, for instance, isn’t running on his desire for a park moratorium, because it isn’t popular. Instead, the public gets this:
Even though it is clear from how they voted that they aren’t supportive of people’s right to get abortions, the conservative City Councilors first pretended they didn’t know of any problems with Crisis Pregnancy Centers, so there was no reason to try to regulate them. Then once pressure mounted for them to act, they had to fabricate a concern about legal liability (though of course that never stops them from acting on any other issue).
The City Councilors who for years would talk openly about the need for market rate housing (just a fancy way of saying unaffordable luxury apartments), have now been forced to pretend to support affordable housing. They are attempting to reframe their position as a logical response to developers’ needs, and not the long-held opposition to affordable housing they’ve observably had. As if developers who are coming to Worcester to make lots of money wouldn’t build because they now would make slightly less money.
The media will want to define the moment we’re in through wins and losses, who is up or down in any one moment, but never connect the wins and losses to a larger historical narrative. That’s not the way to think about what’s happening in our city right now. We need to think about the forces moving Worcester toward becoming a city that works for everyone in the long term. We need to see the forest through the trees.
It is important that we continue to have conversations outside the traditional mechanisms for communication because those mechanisms will always fail us. We cannot depend on Spectrum News or the Telegram to give an honest account of what is happening in the city. The traditional media will continue to favor “official” sources, platform right-wing extremism and dismiss left-of-center policy ideas. They will fail to make connections or provide context.
The question isn’t how to build more affordable housing, the question is how to elect candidates who are going to pass the policies to actually do so. The question isn’t ‘should the city lead on fighting climate change?’ It isn’t ‘should the city build more bike lanes?’ or ‘should we make the city more walkable?’ The question isn’t whether we should support abortion, but how best to do so. Each time, the powers that be have to pretend to support it.
We went from a city under a Mayor Ray Mariano that failed to provide the legal bare minimum financial support to the schools to a city council feeling pressure to do slightly more than that minimum.
Such pressure is the result of an authentic community-based power that exists outside of their tools. We built that power. They are freaking out, because we have won the battle of ideas. The question isn’t whether they enact our ideas, but rather when and how fully. We have won the moral argument. Regardless of the outcome tonight, we can’t lose sight of that fact. It’s more important than any single election, and it’s what truly scares them. The rest is a matter of our time and will.
Odds and Ends
Ok that’s all for today! Please please get some people to vote.
And see you tonight at The Sundown!! Or on the Twitch stream.